Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Micha have been officially counted as part of the Yi nationality in China. It is uncertain how they relate to other Yi groups. Because of their similar names, it is possible the Micha were once related to the Michi people who live much farther east in Chuxiong Prefecture of Yunnan.
At the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), eleven different Yi tribes were listed in the records of the region around Dali. Ralph Covell notes, "When the Mongols under Genghis Khan defeated the Dali kingdom ... some of the Yi nationalities were dispersed throughout Yunnan. The area about the River of Golden Sand [Yangtze] to the north remained unconquered, and tribal kings remained in power there until as late as 1727. Even after the Manchus, with great savagery, suppressed the tribes and put their kings to death, thousands of [Yi] refused to acknowledge defeat and withdrew across the River of Golden Sand to the Daliangshan area. Here they remained in haughty arrogance, resisting Chinese control, at least in the high mountains, until the advent of the People's Republic of China. The Yi of Yunnan accepted Chinese rule and gradually, with periodic resistance, adopted Chinese culture and many features of Chinese religion."
The Mitcha (Micha) were mentioned in an early book as one of only two people groups in Yunnan that the Yi were willing to marry, the other being the Bai. In turn, the Micha refused to intermarry with anyone except the Bai and the Lisu. Today most Micha are hard working agriculturists who prefer to be left alone in their mountain community. Many of their young people prefer to move to the cities and towns where they can earn more money - and to return home periodically for festivals and special occasions.
After living alongside the Han Chinese and Bai for many centuries, the Micha have absorbed many of the religious practices of their neighbors, including aspects of Daoism, Buddhism, and ancestor worship. Little remains of the traditional polytheistic beliefs of the Micha, although the elderly still worship various spirits including the spirit of the village which they believe resides in the largest tree near the community.
The Micha are believed to be an unreached people group with no known Christians, although there is a small smattering of Three-Self (government sanctioned) churches throughout the area, as well as some Catholic influence. The Micha, however, being a small and isolated group, are not exposed to Christian witness.